Tea time

Summer comes with its own drink and an array of choices

Photo By David Robert

It’s hot. It’s sticky. You’re sweating. And you can’t possibly stomach one more tall glass of the most simple liquid that humans drink—water. Soda is sticky, it’s too early for a martini, and Corona without the lime just isn’t doin’ it for ya’ at 11 a.m. Thursday morning. But your tongue is parched, your throat is scratchy, and you’ll absolutely die in just a few minutes if you don’t find something to drink that tastes good. And since you might be watching your weight this summer to look good on the beach (and yes, guys, this means you too), it had better be a low-cal, frosty beverage. So take a look at tea.

Tea. It’s not just for the English in afternoon. It’s not just for your grandma or kooky aunt. Tea is like wine—you can know nothing about it and really enjoy wine from the box, or you only drink certain vintages from certain vineyards with certain cuts of veal. In the world of tea, the equivalents are bagged, Lipton brand iced tea brew, loose-leaf specialty teas, and so on.

Try adding different types of tea together to steep. This works best with loose leaf tea because the leaves can really mix together to create a new flavor. A great combo is green and mint teas, using only a small amount of the mint. It’ll spark up that bitter green tea. Using tea bags is fine too, just remember to try the bags in different ratios.

Another variation on tea is the batch size and the fridge life. Try making just a cup at a time from a gourmet tea for a refresher in the evening, or brew a whole pitcher of sun tea on your porch all afternoon. Try adding more water to make the tea a bit weaker and less potent if the intense flavor is too much, or make iced tea shots using really potent tea.

Can’t stand watery tea? Make a potent batch of your favorite iced tea, and pour it into ice cube trays. You can spice it up, literally, with fresh herbs washed in running cold water and stuck into the trays before you toss them in the freezer. Rosemary, mint, thyme and lavender all work well and add a slight flavor to the tea. And for those sir (or lady) mix-a-lots out there, try adding tea cubes from one tea to another flavor.

Photo By David Robert

It’s imperative that if you want to sweeten your iced tea, do so while the water is hot and the tea is steeping. Otherwise the sweetener won’t dissolve, and you’ll have a muck on the bottom of your glass. If you forget while it’s steeping, you can also crush some clean stevia leaves, an herbal sweetener, and add it to cold tea for a slightly sweeter brew.

Above all, enjoy the experience. You don’t have to serve scones and Devonshire cream to have a tea party. Do it on ice. Buy some wacky coasters at a garage sale or novelty store to set your glasses on or find an odd pitcher and glasses to serve your tea to guests—they abound at both antique and dollar stores. Mimic the wine buffs with your tea pairing. Try it with soup, beef, pastries or with grilled cheese sandwiches. Try matching a spice or herb in the tea with the spice in your potato salad. Hmm.

A fun way to find out which teas you like is to visit places in town that serve tasty iced teas. The Chocolate Bar usually uses the Lipton brew for iced tea, but you can request any of their hot teas as iced. They find their loose leaf tea at Trader Joes. The jasmine and sencha green teas are particularly refreshing. If that’s not your crowd, try the iced teas at Pneumatic Diner. They have a huge variety, and they serve it up cold in a large mason jar with tons of ice. You can sit for an hour and drink it, there’s so much herbal goodness. And they brew with loose-leaf, so they can experiment for you. The prices are good, and most tea tastes excellent with molasses cookies served piping hot.

The Country Garden Restaurant inside the Arlington Gardens Mall brews an excellent, sweet spiced tea. It’s made fresh, and the spice combination melts on your tongue—perfect for those of you who can’t stomach (or swallow) bitter tea. They sell it in plain brown bags at a fair price at the register.

Have a formal tea tasting with the girls at High SocieTea on California Avenue. You can taste their daily iced tea special, or sample the teas hot. Whether acceptable in the realm of tea aficionados or not, most tea meant to be served hot tastes just fine on ice.

For a variety of brewed-while-you-wait iced teas, head over to Bibo Coffee Company on Mt. Rose Street, one of the only places in town that will steep the tea while you wait, then pour it over ice. It takes about 5 minutes, but the flavor is so strong and delicious. And Bibo carries Davidson teas, which are made right here in Reno.

Tea abounds—the grocery store, specialty food stores, gourmet shops, coffee shops, delis, nurseries, boutiques. It’s everywhere. You just have to find it, experiment, and sample.